Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
The Rockland Nationals ended up providing the knockout punch against the Brockville Braves as they went on to win 6-3 at the Memorial Centre on Friday.
The matchup certainly lived up to its hype as being the most anticipated CCHL game of the week. The tale of the tape: On one side you had the Braves with the league’s best winning percentage heading into Friday’s game. On the other side you had the Nationals, the hottest team in the league that went into the tilt having won eight of their last nine games.
The matchup felt like a lightweight championship fight at the start. There wasn’t much heavy hitting, but it was fast and you kept waiting for someone to take a little more than they were giving.
Brockville came out of the gate quickly with two goals from Sam Allison and Emerick Nadeau before the midway point of the first period.
Rockland never strayed from the game plan and continued their quick attack. They cut their deficit to one goal by the end of the opening frame.
Braves captain Fred Allaire brought his team up by two points again with a power play marker, but from there the Nationals took over the game and they broke Brockville with four answered goals.
The Nationals trailed 3-2 to start the third period, but took the lead 11 minutes into the frame. The Braves lost their composure late in the final minutes of regulation and they shot themselves in the foot from making any kind of late comeback.
Brockville’s Theo Citrullo was called for a questionable interference call with less than four minutes left in the game. The Braves ended up sending two players to the sin bin when coach Jesse Winchester picked up an infraction and was ejected for voicing his displeasure with the penalty. Eric Faith added an extra player in Brockville’s penalty box when he dished out an unneeded hit on his way to the bench about a minute later.
Rockland then put the game out of reach with a pair of power play goals, one of them an empty netter, in the final two minutes of the game.
“They’re a really good team over there and their style didn’t change,” said Winchester. “We looked a little anxious in the second half of the game. We talked after the second about being comfortable playing these games and just being sure when you make plays and we lost our composure, myself included.”
JUST HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT?
Friday’s game was important no matter how you look at it.
Rockland is flying up the ranks right now having won nine of their last 10 games. This week the
Braves were ranked No. 11 in the weekly CJHL rankings and the Nationals were an honourable mention. If things keep going in the same direction then those roles are going to be reversed real quick.
The Braves have been very average over the last month-and-a-half, winning just eight of their last 16 games. The silver lining to that is the Braves have beat the league’s best teams over that mediocre stretch, taking down the Carleton Place Canadians, Hawkesbury Hawks, and Rockland once already. Beating the Nationals a second time could have eased the sting a little bit more of this so-so stretch.
“Our game is taking a slide, so it’s a character test,” said Winchester when asked about the importance of Friday’s game. “We have to figure it out, obviously.”
TOUGH WORDS FROM THE COACH
It was only two weeks ago when Braves general manager Dustin Traylen assured he would make more moves before the January trade deadline.
Traylen has made a lot of moves since November and on paper you would think he has a better team now than the one he started with that went on a 14-game win streak. They’re older and they’re supposed to be grittier, but something just isn’t working.
It’s getting down to crunch time where everyone has to perform or it’s going to be harder to predict who will be the Braves player(s) leaving town before the deadline.
“We just haven’t been at our best and time is running thin on allowing guys to work into our system and work into our culture. You got to show up to play. We want to play, we want to work, and we got to use our heads too,” said Winchester.
“We have to figure out who wants to play, who wants to be a player, and who wants to be a Brave. We have some great kids, but they got to start pushing back too. It came easy at the start of the year and now we’re being tested. We should accept that, have fun with it, and roll, but we have to do things properly.”
RETURN OF HALLE
Mathieu Halle returned to the lineup for the first time in almost two months. He separated his shoulder on Oct. 17 and played his first game Friday. He was originally expected to miss the entire season, but recently got the OK from doctors and was able to push surgery to the off-season.
Halle is using a brace to help keep his shoulder safe. It was a tough game for him to come back to considering how fast it moved.
There was a concerning moment late in the second period when he got hit and fell on the injured shoulder. He was slow to get up and you could tell he was hurting by the way he was favouring it. He managed to finish out his shift and came back out for the third period.
Winchester thought Halle’s line with Nicholas Hawkins and Joshua Spratt started solid in the first period, but deteriorated from there.
The Braves host the Smiths Falls Bears on Sunday at the Memorial Centre. Smiths Falls has beat Brockville in two of the three times they’ve met this year.
Original Story at Recorder.ca